Friday, 30 December 2011

Did You Meet Brian Cox in Manchester?

Pic courtesy Bob Lee, Flickr

On Wednesday 7th December, particle physicist / TV presenter Brian Cox was signing copies of his new book, The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen. He swung into Waterstones on Deansgate around lunchtime to talk about his book and answer questions.

I couldn't make it to the event due to work, which is a bit gutting, so I'm throwing it out to you guys. Did you go, and do you want to write it up and have your writing appear here? “PIASOM submission” in the subject field. You know the dance. I'll link back to your blog. Get on it!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

We've done that before

Pic courtesy Marsmet461, Flickr

At the last Writers Connect meetup before Christmas, a member suggested we perform a writing exercise on the prompt “Why not.” I reminded him that he had suggested that one earlier. See here.

It occurred to me later that both him and I had done this exercise in a totally different writing group, and that the other members of Writers Connect hadn't done it. But what the hell. We quickly decided on a new prompt line.

No, we've done that before.”

Have we?” she said. “When?”

About last week, I think. You said it was too convoluted.”

I said that?” she said, flipping to another page. “Well, there might be another book. Check above the cooker, in the cupboard.”

I sighed. “I can't be bothered. Let's just stick with this one. The instructions are clearer. You don't need to get any stuff for it either. We've got everything we need.”

This would be much easier if we were actually in the kitchen. At least with laminate flooring you can just mop up spills and whatever.”

Don't think about that,” I said.

Why not?”

Look,” I ordered. “Just let me take charge here, and it'll be good.” I flipped a page. “The instructions are clearer on this one. Even you could do it.”

Oi”, she said, and tried to kick me. She didn't find it easy barefoot. “Anyway, I think you're right. We've got all we need. In fact,” she said, gripping the book, “ I don't think we need this at all.”

She took the Karma Sutra off me and pulled me to the floor.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Jeru Da Damaja in Rusholme?

Check out this awesome 90s rap video from understated lyricist Jeru Da Damaja.

I first heard this on Tim Westwood's show on BBC Radio 1 in about 1996, just as I was getting into rap music and everyone in my (predominantly white Christian) school thought hip-hop was rubbish. As far as they were concerned it was black people's music, and there were about 2 black people out of about 1200 pupils in the school. Today, 14 out of the 40 tunes in Radio 1's Singles Chart include either a black singer or rap verses- even if it's not actually hip-hop.

Having said that, though, nowadays most of rap music IS rubbish, and it's white school kids who make up a large portion of the UK's music purchases- including, of course, the “hip hop” that makes it into the charts.

I digress. According to Twitter, Brooklyn rapper Jeru- who has always made REAL hip-hop- was in Manchester England on and around 10th December. Nightlife website Skiddle confirms that he was performingat Mansion club in Rusholme, on the edge of the city

Did anyone see him? And- I'll throw it out there- does anyone want to write the night up? I'll let you guest-post here and link back to a site if you've got one. Get involved!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Boiled Egg Fail

Why is it that I can perfect a cheese soufflĂ© after just a couple of goes, 

but boiling an egg- a pretty primitive task- seems beyond my capabilities?

Oh, Keda. You let me down. I closely followed your instructions for “Boiled Egg and Spice Bread”. You said, “bring to the boil then cook for three minutes” for a cooked but runny yolk. Is there something wrong with my hob? 'Cause that's what I did. Result? One hard-boiled egg.

Did I set the timer too late? Maybe I did. Maybe I shouldn't shift the blame.

And what is “spice bread”? I asked the guy in Tesco, and he suggested hot crossed buns. I'm not sure that's what Keda meant, as her diagram looked like Soreen malt loaf. Either product is a good twist on normal toast I supposed.

I tried again the next day. This time I tried pouring boiling water, straight from the kettle, over the egg in the pan. I gave it four minutes from then, on full hob heat. This time the egg was undercooked, so I slammed it in the microwave for 30 seconds. When I took it out, it looked like this:


I'm reminded of this inspiring quote:

    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'”

    -Mary Anne Radmacher, author of motivational books

And that's what I did. I gave Soreen a shot. I got the timing right somehow, so the egg was just right, but Soreen is shit for dunking! Bread is absorbent and takes up the yolk. Toast is just as absorbent but tougher, so stays dunkable without collapsing, but Soreen is like dunking cheese- it takes nothing in and squidges all over the show. Whatever it was Keda photographed under the heading “spice bread”, it's nothing I've ever seen before.

I guess cooking is like most things in my life. Most people my age can do it, because it's- on the whole- pretty simple. But I struggle. Yet I surprise people with all sorts of shit that I've learned in 29 years. I taught a group of MMA fighters the meaning of “Buridan's Ass.” I developed novel methods of building blog readership, with lots of success. 

Egg metaphor alert: I'm just going to have to keep cracking away at my cooking. I can't let it go off the boil. I'll have to keep soldiering on. Okay, that's enough.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Help Save Every Night Erotica

A few months ago, Every Night Erotica- a superb online fiction magazine- published my story, “Afterwards”.  The erotic fiction E-magazine publishes one story every night. As you might guess. It even pays for submissions!

The mag is having a bit of a tough time at the moment- not for financial reasons, it says, but due a lack of contributors!

Editor Jennifer Case says:

We need your sexy stories in order to keep up our daily publications or we won't survive. So please, we are asking for your help! Send your submissions to using our online form. Please email directly if you have any problems using our online submissions process. And please pass this plea along to your sexy writer friends -- there is plenty of room for everyone to get published.

“We are also accepting your XXX-mas stories for the holiday season!

“Remember our guidelines; stories must be 2000 words or less (or you can divide your story into two as long as each part is balanced with enough erotic sex to satisfy your reader!) and your story must be edited for continuity, spelling and grammar. You may submit only your stories you have the rights to if they have been published in the past. And you may submit up to three stories simultaneously!

“Check out our site for all the genres we publish”
So- erotica writers- get scribbling, polish your work off and get it sent in. You'll be paid, you'll get your work seen alongside mine and there's the potential for the whole online world to read your work. Just write good, and you're onto a winner.

Monday, 12 December 2011

There is no greater food on Earth than pizza.

I make myself pizza if it comes down to that drastic measurement.
-Corey Haim, actor

My situation may not be quite as drastic as Corey's was, but thankfully, cookbook writer Keda Black stuck my fave dish- Pizza Margherita - at the start of the book that I'm working through. I bought a couple of bases so I could be sure I'd get it right. Challenges:
  1. I live in a 1-bedroom council flat. The kitchen is tiny, with limited workspace.
  2. I don't own a garlic crusher. Instead I used a knife, cutting it as thin as possible, kind of like they do in Goodfellas' prison scene.

    Keda suggested flattening cherry tomatoes with a spatula to make the sauce, which I would never have thought of. I'd have gone for a tube of puree like I used to at my mum's. I'd also have automatically used Cheddar- Keda wisely listed Mozzarella.

The result: a taste sensation. A thousand times more flavoursome than a Tesco pizza. There's plenty of cheese in this blog post already, but regardless: I'm moving forward here. I'm getting good in the kitchen, and no longer feeling like a culinary lost boy. (That's a Corey Haim tie-in joke. Never mind.)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Weaning Off Chocolate

Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two but can't remember what they are.

-Matt Lauer, US TV Journalist

This blog is about improving life. Particularly mine, but hopefully it will affect a few others as well. Most of these entries are my attempts to fine tune everything I do to make me a better person. Through this blog, I've experimented with weightlifting, tried to live off the cheapest possible food, then tried to live off anything but, tried a range of exercise classes, and experimented with social media and blogging so that my blog- including write-ups of all of these experiments- get seen online by as many people as possible.

Today, I'm still looking to sharpen myself up. I have fears to conquer, skills to develop (see my cookery posts) and belief to build on. Even though some of these need working on constantly, like cooking, others I like to focus on for one month. Sometimes this is a major task, like attempting to get my blog noticed in Hollywood, or just a little gym exercise like getting the most out of your membership by trying all the classes.

At the end of November my mum bought me a Cadbury's advent calendar. Yes, I know. I'm 29. Well. I certainly have an awesome mum. As I placed it on my fireplace, an idea hit me. At the time, I was trying to cut down on chocolate, to no avail. Chocolate contains a number of addictive chemicals, but which chemicals scientists are still trying to nail down.

An addiction- which, I suppose, I've got- implies a dependency on a certain chemical or chemicals. If I was to stop eating chocolate right now, my hands would itch, I'd lose concentration, I'd be tired permanently and eventually I'd just give up and buy a gluttonous 400g bar of Dairy Milk and smash the lot. And feel sickeningly guilty. Then repeat the cycle. (Writing this is making me want to nip to Tesco right now. Shit...)

I managed to go without chocolate for about 6 weeks back in 2008. It was hard. After the 5th week, though, the cravings started to die off and I was enjoying eating more healthily- particularly meat- and was doing well at the gym. I was also, for the first time ever, doing pretty well with girls. I think there's a connection. On one memorable date, though, a girl took me to a bar with a chocolate fountain. I fell back in again. To addiction, I mean. Not the fountain.

I'm not going to cut chocolate out completely this month. Through December so far, I've eaten only a tiny bite-size drop of chocolate per day, from my advent calendar, normally first thing in the morning. I'm hoping this constant drip-feed of chocolate will be regular and small enough to “wean” me off. I'm not buying any more than this, and the only other chocolate I'll have will be powdered, with hot milk (insomnia remedy). I'm obviously a fair way into the challenge right now (forgetfulness- I thought of this in November) but...

Provided nobody buys me any chocolate for Christmas, I will be able to cut it out for the foreseeable future.

The goals:
  1. Improvement to strength and cardio at the gym.
  2. Better concentration in work and with blogging/creative writing
  3. Calmer frame of mind overall, in work, with family and with friends, and when meeting new people.
  4. To generally man up, stop being a bitch and stop eating women's food all the time. For Christ's sake!
  5. I might even, as Lauer seems to suggest, find myself remembering a little more. You never know.

I'm doing pretty good so far. For anyone thinking they eat too much chocolate, the run-up to Christmas is the perfect time to start cutting down, contrary to what you might expect. I'll blog again in a month to see whether I'm still plagued with chocoholism.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Huddersfield Road: Fast Food Overload

This just opened down the road from me in Oldham.

It sits over the road from The Taj Mahal takeaway. You know, next to the other Indian takeaway. And the Chinese. Which leads onto the Subway, the Pizza Hut Delivery, the chippy and a number of other Asian takeaways. In fact, after chowing down in the Colonel's new outlet, I did a quick count-up of fast food joints on that section of Huddersfield Road. Within about 100 metres, there's a grand total of 17 fast food eateries.

There are plenty of other takeaways like this across the borough. There are plenty other nearby streets like this as well. In fact, you could say the whole town is “saturated” with them. Boom boom.

Is this why “41,000 people in Oldham are obese (Body Mass Index (BMI) >30), with an additional 36,000 men and 31,000 women overweight (BMI 25 – 30).”

The other question is, why do I keep banging on about fast food on my blog? And why do I keep trying out these outlets as they open? I especially shouldn't, seeing as I spend a large portion of my life in one gym or another, trying to get back to the (pretty impressive) shape I was in before I moved out. And it's not like I don't know what I'm going to experience in these restaurants. Also, a good number of my posts are about working out, and aside from that I write about Manchester, not Oldham. Hmm.

Regardless, I gave the Colonel one chance to redeem himself. The new restaurant is clean and smart. The staff are friendly. The food tastes good. I've no complaints. KFC is KFC. But seriously, that's quite enough fast food joints on Huddersfield Road, thanks. There might be one space left for a liposuction clinic. If it keeps its prices modest, it will have a LOT of business.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Break down to pieces, make cocaine quiches
Money piled high as my nieces
  • Rapper “Pusha T” (?)
Crusading forth through Keda Black's cookbook, I had a bash at this traditional French dish. Mine, unlike Pusha's, did not have a Colombian slant to it.

It first involved making pastry, which I didn't knead for long enough. When I took it out of the fridge an hour after making, it was still sticky. I left it overnight and rolled it out the next morning on a kitchen work surface. It STILL stuck to the breadboard. I added some more flour before rolling it out.

I mixed up the quiche ingredients, but had to guess-measure the cream as the mixture itself was in my only mixing jug. After cooking, cooling and fridge-ing the dish, I gave it a shot.

It was good. It was better than I'd expected. I wasn't sure that the pastry had formed properly, being a bit soft, but it tasted fine. Better than fine. The only problem was, the recipe was for four people. It was a feast. I only got about a third of the way through before I had to bin it. The thought of freezing it in portions didn't cross my mind for some reason, the parents were away (again) so I couldn't give it to them, and I don't think many friends are ready to trust my cooking yet. I don't even know if I do. Especially with a dish like this, which people tell me is one of the more complicated ones. Come on, Keda, you could have stuck that in later in the book!

But that's why I'm doing this. When I got this cookbook for my birthday, I thought, I'd really like to be able to use this. But I'm going to do it all wrong.

I have short-term memory difficulties stemming from a complication at birth. After recent conversations with family and a few memory specialists, we've nailed down a hard home truth. I expect things to go wrong. I expect to fail, and because I expect I will, I do. I expect I will, however, because I have experienced 29 years of making the same mistakes and NOT remembering what went wrong. This has resulted in repeatedly NOT being able to foresee problems and avert them.

But this doesn't mean things will always be this way. I learned to drive and passed first time in 2002. I've got a 2:1 BSc Hons in Professional Broadcast Techniques. I've developed methods of organisation, using a phone, diaries and notebooks, to make sure things happen when they should. I devised a lever-arch file system for any info pertaining to the flat. I've had a number of pieces of writing published and have held down a public sector job for three years. I've also got a forty-thousand hit blog. I've learned to improve my writing. I've learned how to tailor my writing to attract blog hits using Search Engine Optimisation. If the human race can thrive by cooking and eating decent food, there's no reason why I can't join them on that, is there?

And so, I cook on, under the guidance of the very knowledgeable Keda Black. Stay tuned for more meal-making malarky.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Synaesthesia For Ten Minutes

Synaesthesia, in its simplest form, is best described as a “union of the senses” whereby two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together.”- UK Synaesthesia

See for more info.

At a recent writer's group, a member explained this condition. A person affected by synaesthesia might see a certain colour and imagine hearing a particular sound, or might experience a certain event that they would then describe with a colour. The writer at our group had developed a writing exercise based on the notion of a colour linking to some of the other senses. She provided a range of pictures and asked us each to pick one that intrigued us. The ten minute exercise: Link the picture and the theme of synaesthesia within a story.

I didn't totally get it, to be honest, but I gave it a shot. Here's the picture I picked:

Here's the writing I wrote.

Jane sat at the kitchen work surface, surrounded by food. She had starved herself for two days, as a personal challenge. Her hands shook as she laid out the fruit and veg on the table.

Her hunger pangs had driven her senses to a heightened level. Tiredness had made her ravenous and now, with the uncooked banquet in front of her, consumption was paramount. But something was different. She picked up a carrot, still caked in dried soil, and bit into it.

She was no longer sat in her kitchen. Her work surface dissolved into hard mud. She could see the sky above her, the earth ploughed into rows, a distant tractor coughing out dirt and uprooting vegetables.

She chewed as the crows cried out above her head.

When she swallowed, she was jammed back into her kitchen chair in an instant. To her left, in a bed of crushed ice, lay a solitary dead haddock. She looked at the fish. It looked at her. She scooped it up in one hand. They stared face-to-face. Her work surface morphed into corrugated iron. A motor churned loudly.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Free Cards to Promote Your Blog

Keep your eyes peeled for these little beauties doing the rounds in and around Manchester...

If you're a blogger it's a good plan to check out Vistaprint,  a firm providing a wide range of office / business-based merchandise. The web-based company will give you 250 cards for free. Choose from 42 different designs. The site is easy to use and they deliver to pretty much everywhere in the world. You even get a snazzy free metal case to store them in.

The upside to having a blog card: You can always let people know your URL if you've featured something that they might be interested in. They can take it with them and, as long as they have the card, they'll remember you. It's handy for writing events, blog meetups, feedback groups or just for “accidentally” leaving around the place.

The downside to having a blog card: You look like these guys.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Art of Blogging: Part 2

Photo Courtesy Rightee, Flickr

Having been to a fascinating talk by the ever knowledgeable Kate Feld, curator of Manchester blogging resource The Manchizzle, I came home with pages and pages of notes about finding your feet- and your niche- in the blogosphere. Kate, like many other social media experts, advised us that blog posts should be kept to around 500 words. People's patience on the internet, she reminds us, is very short. Hence, I've split this subject into two blog posts. The first instalment is here.

Here are a few examples of fine Manchester blogging shown on the OHP at the event.

Gill Moore Photography, a Manchester-based photo blog.

Having a Party Without Me, a very zany music review site

The Naughty Index. This woman is a legend. The concept of her blog is simple: she approaches women in the street and asks them to undress for the camera. Most refuse. Some do not. “The whole 'asking women to take their clothes off' thing, well, let's gloss over that,” says Kate. “But it's good!” Agreed.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road, a Manchester-based arts and culture blog. 

My Shitty Twenties, written by a very eloquent young lady about her life as a single mum. Kate tells us that this mummy-blogger had thought very carefully about how much of her son's life- and her own life- she was going to publicise through the blog, and how it might affect her boy, Tom, as he grew up. The blogger herself is anonymous, living in South Manchester.

Kate shows us a range of fascinating sites based outside of Manchester. Here's Delightfully Tacky, written by “a not-so-reformed tomboy with a love for vintage, art, music and the charm of tacky, kitschy things most often found lingering in the 70's”. It's appropriately retro-designed and photographed. The author, Elizabeth, gained popularity a few years ago by reviewing women's fashion. It wasn't long before fashion labels began to send her clothes for her to review. Kate has been reading this for some time; she suggests that Elizabeth's earlier posts were more entertaining before sponsorship started to change the blog's style and content.

Gawker is a very sarcastic but very funny celebrity blog. Kate tells us that the site has a team of bloggers updating the site every hour or so. Oh, to be as advanced as that!

The Tiny Sartorialist is a gem of a blog, written from the perspective of a very capable one-year-old. Marshall Ace, a “baby and fashion blogger,” is beautifully photographed by his parents (who doubtlessly double as his ghost-writing team) whilst wearing a range of cutting-edge baby clothes. I defy even the most stoney-hearted of non-child people not to aww at their screens. I know I did. Marshall, like Elizabeth at Delightfully Tacky, also receives clothes from fashion houses hoping to get publicity.

Reading up on good blogs is one way to find your feet as a blogger, but good solid advice from a successful blogger is essential. At her events, Kate certainly provides that. Here are some top tips:

  • Be generous with links. Provide opportunities to read something other than your own blog. Don't feel like you're sending them away from your blog. Links are like your karma: they come back. Make sure you're links are useful and suit the style and content of your blog. Make sure your links open in a separate tab, so your site stays open. On Blogger there's a box to tick on the “insert hyperlink” page.

  • Blogs are traditionally text-based websites, but due to the advancement of technology that's not strictly the case. Most blogging platforms allow for the inclusion of photos, videos and sound. Mixing these in will make your blog more lively and engaging. Also, your readers may find it easier to take in your information if it's presented in a different medium. A cookery blog, for instance, NEEDS pictures. Short Youtube videos might also help. A music blog wouldn't be a music blog without embedded Youtube videos or Soundcloud music tracks. Kate also suggests Audioboo, a site allowing you to record sound quickly and embed it into your blog, and Audacity, free open-source sound editing software.

What was your take on the blogs above? And have you used any of these sound packages? How well did they work for you?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hidden Published Pieces

Pic coutesy Dragaroo, Flickr

Jacob the mountain lion lies comatose in his cell, thinking. He wants to do something drastic. He can't move, though, and stays slumped in the corner, watching. Waiting. His computer, which he has been using since becoming literate some months ago, hasn't been switched on for days. The zoo keeper has worked very closely with the zoological consultant, Fluffy Oakes, but neither can diagnose him. Jacob, sprawled on the floor of his enclosure, lies still, breathing slowly. His heartbeat is regular; he's eating steadily in small measures. The two employees suspect diabetes, although it is unusual for his species.

When he was in Newcastle, Jacob says, he bought an instant cold pack, a flu remedy. It set his head straight. He tried an energy drink that gave him the strength to stay alert the whole trip. It was incredible. Without that strength, the trip could have descended into anarchy.

It did, Fluffy reminds him. But regardless, says the consultant. I'll give it a go. Let's get you some meds.

Days later, the order arrives. The zoo receives a delivery of a large quantity of instant cold packs and energy drinks. The staff move a kettle into Jacob's lair. He's taught to use it safely- part of his freedom training, even though the release scheme is still on hold.

A zoo porter, a young, enthusiastic lad, tentatively enters Jacob's enclosure and begins emptying a bottle into a steel trough.

Young fella,” Jacob mumbles.

The porter looks into Jacob's sad eyes. The cat still has all his muscle. His groomed coat shows no sign of wear or infection. The lad pours the last of the bottle into the trough. His shaking hands let every drop fall out.

You've got to help me,” says Jacob pitifully, his pride stinging him. “I'm gonna need more than that. This calls... for some serious... sugar.”

I can only give you one bottle,” says the boy.

Have you ever had a cat die on you?”

The boy slouches slightly. His eyes narrow, like he's concentrating.

Happened to me once,” says Jacob. “Before you joined us. Horrible feeling. They just didn't listen to her. She needed sugar for type 2 diabetes, but they didn't believe the cat family were prone to it. She was a wonderful woman.”

The boy has backed to the door, facing the sprawling, giant feline.

Jacob moves his head for eye-contact. “You wouldn't want that kind of guilt on your shoulders, boy. Not at your age. I can administer it myself. Just haul it all in here. I'll take full responsibility.”

The boy looks over his shoulder through the enclosure's window. The pallet of drinks is on a pump-truck. It's narrow enough for him to wheel it straight in through the enclosure's entrance. He does so nervously, banging the pallet's edges on the corners of the door.

God bless you,” whimpers Jacob.

The boy, damp with sweat, leaves and locks the door with a sigh.

Jacob lies listening to the boy's footsteps echoing down the corridor, followed by the cold, metal slam of the enclosure's door.

That's when he leaps to his feet. He blows the dust off his computer and fires it up. Behind the rocks and branches in his cell, he pulls out a makeshift laboratory of sorts- tubes, beakers, a Bunsen burner and gas supply- all mail-ordered black-market packages the zoo never thought to check on. He assembles the work station. He sparks the Bunsen. He mixes solutions and breaks down compounds. He develops formulas and reforms elements to new compounds. He evaporates, distils, and purifies until- from the litres of energy drinks and flu remedies- only a dribble remains. It looks like a shot of vodka. This liquid has a much bigger kick, however, than any other spirit you'd find in a bar- even a Russian one.

If his science is right, Jacob has made enough ammonium nitrate to blast through his enclosure wall.

He picks a brick near the bottom of the wall and, where the top ledge of the stone meets the mortar, he takes the pipette and adds droplets in a row. He works quickly to avoid evaporation. He picks up the kettle. He turns it upside down, still holding it by the handle, and closes his eyes. Jacob slams the appliance into the cold, concrete floor. He rips off the remaining plastic and extracts the heating element. He paws at the component and watches it spark. The solution is evaporating, so he works quickly. If this doesn't work, his entire plan will fall through. He pulls the work station noisily to the rock and stands behind it for shelter. He mimes a couple of throws, then crouches behind the rock, the table a makeshift roof.

The gate CLANGS again at the end of the enclosure. The staff are onto him. He takes a deep breath, and launches the element at the wall.

The blast is deafening. The alarms trip, shrieking into every area of the zoo. Brick fragments and mortar fly past him, slamming into the opposite wall. A cloud of dust fills the room. Animals in neighbouring cells screech and hoot and roar. Jacob bounds over the table, through the smoke and ashes, into the new cavern formed by the explosion. The lights are on inside the zoo but the daylight, breaking through from the other side, still dazzles him. The outside Manchester air is colder now, much colder than Newcastle was a few months previously. He enters the tunnel, loosening bricks with his shoulders, widening the cavern and broadening the beam of light. He prowls forward. Freedom is a lunge away-

It's gold, or looks like it. It's some kind of plaque, buried deep into the wall.

Jacob has stopped. His bladder swells. Why was it built over? He thinks. And when? This zoo was a mill before it closed. Even if this was an extension, it would have been built before the Internet was available in Britain. When these bricks were set, the Web was handled only by a group of tech geeks in the States. This is too weird, thinks Jacob.

A shadow passes over him. He looks back to the cell. A man in a gas mask fires a tranquilliser gun. There's a thump as the dart lands in Jacob's thigh.

He pauses, looks at the dart, then looks at his exit. He makes a lunge for the opening, but slumps in sudden exhaustion, his nose a whisker away from the outside world, his tail just touching the plaque, which reads:

Additional published work by Matt Tuckey:

Stakeout in Thrillers, Chillers and Killers

Winter Canons- a short fiction anthology to which Matt has no recollection of submitting

An advert for The Knife Job, a script Matt wrote, on the website for the now-disbanded Northern Film Network

Friday, 25 November 2011

Conversation with Insane European Woman on Facebook

Pic courtesy dmix06, Flickr

The following is too funny for me not to share with you. A woman from Europe asked me for some blogging advice a few days ago. I gave her what pointers I could, and gave her a link to my blog- largely just to get another page view. A few days later, she sent me an add request. I added her because, at that point, I recognised her. A week or so later, I had typically forgotten why I'd added her. Her updates were appearing in my news feed, in Greek typeface. I was confused, and took the risk of expressing this bemusement in a status update. She read this update and, understandably, threw in her own two pennies. Here's a transcript of my Facebook status and comments. Surnames have been removed. It's raw and only a little edited so please excuse the Facebook grammar.
Inbox msg from Greek lady: "fucking son of bitch, it's you who sent me a friend request. Just for this reason i hate all English - all of u consider urselves a big piece of shit!" Okaaaaay.
Like · Share · 20 November at 21:04 near Oldham
  • Sara, Roland, Francine and 7 others like this.
      Sal: Hahaa! Do you know her??
      20 November at 21:07

      Matt: nope! I did put a status about her that you commented on a few days ago tho :)
      20 November at 21:08

      Sal: What was that then? And why are you randomly sending friend requests out? Don't you know that us women despise that? :-/ x
      20 November at 21:11

      Matt: She sent it the request to me! She claims its the other way around though. Why would I send an add to a woman from Azerbijan who had the poster or Amilie as a profile pic? x
      20 November at 21:12

      Matt: I put the status up on the 16th, scroll down x
      20 November at 21:14

      Sal: Hahahaha you're hilarious..only you tuckey! X
      20 November at 21:15 · Unlike · 1

      Sal: I've just looked and there isn't any comments x
      20 November at 21:18

      Matt: Errrrr... if women hate random adds, how come so many have accepted mine? :p only kidding. Actually, no I'm not.
      20 November at 21:18

      Sal: Coz they must be just as random ha! X
      20 November at 21:19

      Matt: There is! Rob liked it. 16th Nov.
      20 November at 21:24

      Sal: Yeah i know but there's no comment from me! X
      20 November at 21:28

      Matt: Oh you commented on an older post when some albanian woman added me a few months ago. And yes, SHE sent the req to ME. x
      20 November at 21:31

      Sal: Hahaha x
      20 November at 21:35

      Becks: what the crocodile HAT is THAT all about some people are lunatics lol xx
      20 November at 21:37

      Kirstie: Haha, Tuckey you clearly have a magnet that attracts strange mental individuals - look at me sal n Becks haaa x
      20 November at 22:03 · Like · 1

      Matt: On the subject of which, here's something I wrote a couple of years ago. Beware the dating website!
      20 November at 22:10

      Becks: Ha ha, I like to call myself special, we are lunatics but good ones lol xx
      20 November at 22:12

      Kirstie: The best lunatics there is! Bueno estente! Xx
      20 November at 22:13 · Like · 1

      Sal: Haha :-) x
      20 November at 22:43 · Like · 1

      Becks: ha ha for defo bueno es es es estente :-) xx
      20 November at 22:49 · Like · 1

      Insane European Woman: haha :D that was me - and as u can see i'm not greek but a jew ;) stupid matt :D
      Monday at 00:23

      Insane European Woman: u promised to help me with my blog, but didn't keep ur word - so u deserved those words
      As for the hometown or current city/country- oh, plr never pay special attention to that- yerterday i was from korea, today i'm from azirbijan, tomorrow i'll be from ireland :p
      Cheerios :D
      Monday at 00:29

      Matt: Well, this is very strange. First off, Greek is a nationality. Judaism is a religion. The two are not comparable. Second, I remember offering to help you, but a simple inbox message reminding me would have set the ball rolling. I'd have been very willing to help out. I may actually have responded to that message, but I can't remember. Like most "Big English pieces of shit" we live very busy lives. Not to mention- I have a memory disability, which doesn't make thing easier. Going ballistic at someone over a misunderstanding aint gonna help. Also, changing your profile every day on Facebook doesn't make you very trustworthy. Hackers and fraudsters tend to do that kind of thing. I wish you all the best with your blog. (Oh, and keep your eye on - you might recognise one of the stories I'm about to put up.)
      Monday at 06:50 · Like · 2

      Sal: Block her matt! Complete utter weirdo!
      Monday at 07:53 · Like · 1

      Insane European Woman: thank u :)
      Monday at 10:43

      Insane European Woman: i'm a jew who wrote her name in greek alphabet. But what made me angry is that people like u determine ur relation to tthe persons around after seeing a person's hometown or country. If i'm from azirbijan, korea, indonesia, then i'm a low-grade. But if i'm from USA, ur attitude at once changes
      I'll also write about such people in my blog
      Monday at 11:05

      Matt: Insane European Woman- in England we have a phrase "the kettle calling the pot black". This means that someone is accusing someone else of doing something that they themselves are already doing. I mentioned your nationality on my status because you live thousands of miles away. THAT's why I said I wish my luck changed. I have nothing against the country you're from, yet you have already called me an "English piece of shit" and a "son of a bitch". Do you see what I'm getting at?
      Monday at 12:47 · Like · 2

      Sal: She's a t**t! She should be taken off x
      Monday at 12:49 · Like · 1

      Gin: Ahahaha this is hilarious! x
      Monday at 12:56 · Unlike · 2

      Becks: This is funny, don't know why people bothering arguing, our group of friends are people who originate from all over the world, Matt isn't racist, so you need to get on Ebay get a life love and stop talking rubbish on people's profiles xx
      Monday at 13:04 · Unlike · 2

      Insane European Woman: Ok let it be so.but you ARE STUPID ENOUGH to laugh at my Amelie prof pic. My advice - never again boast with your fucking blog & bullshit blog posts.u'd better work on ur mind&attitude towards others.
      Tuesday at 02:50

      Matt: Insane European Woman- I can't tell whether you're trying to make a serious point or whether you're just spamming the shit out of my Facebook. Oh, I am a moron, without a doubt. But I'm not arguing with someone on their Facebook page, where they have the support of all their friends ready to add comments. You are. Oh, and my "bullshit blog" has 38,000 hits and has been read and shared by some fairly recognisable names in Hollywood. You know where this is going.
      Tuesday at 07:08 · Like · 2
So yeah, quite a day. She blocked me eventually. Why people come to me with this shit I have no idea, but one thing is for certain- there is truly no point starting an argument over Facebook- especially if you can't physically lay a hand on them later on, due to distance. But I'm not going to get all preachy on you. If you want to read an article on social media etiquette, there's plenty of blogs out there for that. This is just another example of how stupid, weird and crazy situations tend to find me without me even looking. But having said that, if you go mental at someone over the internet- someone you know to be a blogger- what do you think is going to happen?

PS While we're on the subject, ladies, I have a Facebook-related question to ask you. Men sending random friend requests to women: good move or bad move? I accepted a random add and got a relationship out of it, so I know where I stand.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Tale of Jimbob, the Thirty-Year-Old Jelly Baby

Pic Courtesy Dannymx, Flickr

The following is a short audio play I wrote and produced for my GNVQ Media course circa 1999. This week I dug out the script and polished it up. I've made only minor grammar adjustments. It's just for fun. What do you think?

JIMBOB (Narration)
What's your earliest memory? Is it from when you were a baby? Mine is. Come to think of it, so's my second. And third. In fact, my memory of yesterday's breakfast is from this time. It's not like I haven't aged, I just haven't ever put on weight in any shape or form from birth. Until recently, I had only a few wispy ideas as to why.


JIMBOB (Narration)
Stepping off my tailor-made Harley Davidson, dressed in my protective leather pants and jacket, I looked up at the old converted Victorian warehouse known locally as Affleck's Temple. The name “Temple” arose partly because of the stone columns in front of the building and also because of the high regard locals held for this shop in its former days of glory. I was hoping that my curiosity of this shop would be satisfied, as I had heard many odd rumours about this place.

I checked my 30 centimetre appearance in the mirrored door. Tucking my t-shirt in tight, I stepped inside.


JIMBOB (Narration)
I was expecting the usual gob-smacked look of disbelief which I have tolerated for thirty years, but the only other person in the building, a thin pale man with long dark hair seemed about as shocked as a sleeping gorilla.


JIMBOB (Taken aback)

JIMBOB (Narration)
Immediately, I sensed something was amiss. I'd never seen this bloke in my life, but there wasn't a hint of surprised in his presumably drug-induced expression.


Whoa. Never seen these before.

That's a plug socket, mate.

Oh! Oh.

JIMBOB (Narration)
Since when, I thought, had plug sockets been five centimetres thick, in three uneven sections and emitted a thin blue light every three seconds? I stepped back cautiously and looked around, squinting in the dim light. The main source of light seemed to be coming from another room, around a few corners. I followed this light into a small offset area...


JIMBOB (Narration)
...Completely empty, except for one backlit shelf, holding a large egg. I was enthralled. Moving a nearby stepladder and climbing up it, I went to pick it up. But as I did-


JIMBOB (Narration)
The light went out. I was in darkness. I did the only thing I could think of, and put it back on the shelf.


JIMBOB (Narration)
Via the light of the egg, I managed to see the way out of the room and plan my escape. I took my chances.



JIMBOB (Narration)
I checked my wallet, and realised I had no money and no credit cards. As shelves covered most of the walls, right to the ground, I could see no place to bang my head. But I wasn't going to let this stop me from obtaining this mystical item. It became clear to me that I was going to have to shoplift. I put the egg discreetly under my coat and headed for the exit. As I approached the door,


JIMBOB (Narration)
I felt a burning sensation in the area of the egg. A dazzling light, coming from under my coat, blinded me. Holding the now-shining egg in front of me, I heard a voice.

Jimbob. Look at what your race has done.

JIMBOB (Narration)
A montage of images flashed before me: a sewage pipe opening into the sea, car exhausts billowing smoke, large trees being cut to the ground and, most shockingly, reels of films being cut and spliced.

Why? Why have we done this?

My apprentice will explain.

Don't you see mate? Human beings have evolved to the stage of self-destruction. God is using Man to destroy the Earth. He never intended for life to exist eternally on Earth and now he is sending the Earth back into the Sun.

JIMBOB (sarcastically)
So why are you telling me? Am I the only person to have come into this forgotten temple?

There's something else you wanted to know isn't there?


MR. STONED (singing)
#The shin bone's connected to the- knee bone, the- knee bone's connected to the-

Oh yeah. What about me? Why have I never grown?

Thirty years ago, Jimbob, you were conceived in the disabled toilet of a McDonald's restaurant.

No! It can't be true!

I'm afraid it is. Just deal with it. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. The vile fumes and piles of waste damaged your cells and you were never to grow again. Your bones formed as lumps of gelatine, therefore making you a literal human jelly baby. As for the egg you have in your hand- that is the egg.

What egg?

You know the phrase- which came first, the chicken or the egg?

THIS is the actual proverbial egg?


So it was the egg? That came first?

No mortal will ever know. You tried to steal the egg. You wanted to keep the meaning of life to yourself, but only I, the Sovereign Lord, will know. Oh, and my apprentice, Mr Stoned.


You are an individual, Jimbob. No-one on Earth is as original as you.


JIMBOB (Narration)
The light receded and only the outside daylight remained. Shaking, I handed the egg back to Mr. Stoned.

I think I'll leave this with you.

Yeah, see you mate.

JIMBOB (Narration)
I stepped outside into the cool daylight. My Harley was there, just as I'd left it. Stepping on, shaking slightly, I switched on the ignition and rode off, my mind a race of thoughts. The man in the temple was right. We're evolving to destroy ourselves. I suppose I'd better make the most of this world while I've got the time.